Drought in North Dakota exposes 130-year-old shipwreck

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Drought in North Dakota exposes 130-year-old shipwreck

The Abner O’Neal sank while traveling along the Missouri River in 1892. Nearly 130 years later, the shipwreck still lies at the bottom of the North Dakota portion of the river and recently became visible to visitors, according to CBS Bismarck affiliate KXMB TV.

North Dakota is currently experiencing a statewide drought, and as a result, the Garrison Dam in the Missouri River has reduced water discharge. Archaeologists said receding water levels revealed the remains of the ship, KXMB-TV reported.

Built in 1884, the steamship carried grain between Washburn and Bismarck-Mandan. Eight years later, the Abner O’Neal was carrying 9,000 bushels of buckwheat when it hit a snag or rock and began sinking between Washburn and Mandan. The cargo on board and the boat itself were a total loss, according to the State Historical Society of North Dakota’s website.

The ship, which has remained largely intact since it sank, was also seen during the 2011 Missouri River flood.

Local resident Nyk Edinger went to see the shipwreck himself. He said he appreciates the piece of history.

“Much of our history has been broken down because the weather is extreme, so to have something as old as the Abner O’Neal and still be able to see the iron and wood that went into that ship with our own eyes is a incredible experience,” he told KXMB-TV. “Something historical like that, something as old as that, something that came long before me and will be here long after I’m gone, was important to me.”

Officials ask the public not to disturb the wreckage.

“It’s public property and a protected historic site, so when you visit it’s important to take pictures only and be respectful,” said Andrew Clark, the state’s chief archaeologist.

Abner O’Neal shipwrecked in the Missouri River in North Dakota. / Credit: State Historical Society of North Dakota

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